Normally, if someone asks me for a favor, I feel like the burden of proof is on me—if I’m not going to do it, I need to have a good, solid reason. This mentality has inspired some passive aggressive behavior in its time (“Fine, I’ll take you to the airport. I guess I’ll just set my alarm an hour early…”), along with some genuine acts of kindness.
Today I wasn’t feeling the burden of proof so much.
The Sparkletts guy had just swung open the door to our office and plunked down a new bottle of water when Mark, the acupuncturist who works across the hall, suddenly appeared in the room.
“Hey, can I give you some money to buy an extra bottle and then use it in my office?” he asked.
A fairly reasonable request, right? But let me introduce you to Mark. He is balding and middle-aged, but robust-looking, not like he lifts weights, but more like he gets acupuncture regularly and goes for long walks. Ostensibly, we have a nice, neighborly relationship. He’s borrowed my stapler and asked me to proofread his acupuncture brochure, and I once asked him for a pair of tweezers so I could yank a jammed paper out of the printer.
The problem is, he makes all his neighborly gestures in the creepiest way possible. Once he came over and said, “I just picked up breakfast next door, and they accidentally gave me two orange juices. Do you want one?” It looked fresh-squeezed, so I said, “Sure, thanks.” He said, “I love it when women are beholden to me.”
Whenever I see him in the hallway, he points at me and says, “I see you.”
It’s all in good humor, except as humor goes, it’s not very good. If our office building is a friendly little neighborhood, he is the registered sex offender. (I’m not saying he is, I’m just extending a metaphor here.) He has that unfortunate male habit—which fortunately most males I know don’t have—of assuming that the world will always answer him with a resounding and flirtatious “yes.”
As he stood there, thrusting a $10 bill at me, there was no doubt in his mind that I would be his Sparkletts pimp. But if he knew me at all, he would know that I hate being predictable so much that I try to switch up my Starbucks order just to keep the barista guessing. I explained to him that I have to send the Sparkletts bill to our controller in our New York office; it’s not like I can just send $10 in cash along with the bill.
“I’m not trying to be a jerk, but the accounting is just too complicated,” I said.
Except I was trying to be a jerk, and the accounting wouldn’t have been too complicated if any other building resident—the screenwriter or the perfume importer or the nice psychologist who specializes in people with gender issues—had asked.
“Look, I’m giving you $10. You’ll make $3 off of it,” he said.
“Sorry,” I said. Except I wasn’t.